For years, you’ve turned to your pet to share the good times … and also to deal with the difficult ones. You KNOW college is going to be filled with stressful moments. And you WISH you could bring your four-legged friend with you to help you cope. But that’s just not something colleges will allow. Or is it?
More and more, colleges and universities are showing they understand the important role pets can play in maintaining good health and emotional equilibrium. Some schools arrange for access to therapy dogs to help students through exams; while others even allow pets to live in dorms under certain circumstances. These institutions realize that playing with a pet isn’t just fun … it can be one of the most effective ways of dealing with stress, anxiety, loneliness, and homesickness.
Pet therapy has long been used in elder care facilities and with trauma victims as a way to establish a sense of calm while delivering important medical benefits including lowered blood pressure and heart rate, boosted immune levels and increased well-being.1
A number of leading schools allow students the opportunity to “borrow” a pet for a hit of stress relief. Some even allow students to bring their own pets (including some really big ones) to campus, under certain circumstances. Here’s a look at some of the options.
Paws to Relax
Since 2010, the University of Connecticut has arranged for therapy dogs to visit the campus’ main library during finals week to provide students with a much-needed diversion through the popular Paws to Relax program. Students can commune with four-legged friends like Cooper the German Shepherd, Dooley the Newfoundland, and Penn the Labradoodle. “The dogs help them relax,” notes Jo Anne Reynolds, the Reserve Services Coordinator at Connecticut’s Homer Babbidge Library. “People tend to think of therapy dogs in nursing homes or other places, and don’t think of students as much. But they are also in an institutional situation away from their family and their pets,”2
UConn’s Storrs campus also boasts an on-campus farm that serves as home to chickens, cows, horses, and sheep. The open-to-the-public barns are home to a veritable menagerie of too-cute baby animals – offering the perfect excuse for a study break.
Ohio’s Kent State University also boasts an innovative pet therapy program known as Dogs on Campus. Considered by many to be the premier college-based pet therapy program, D.O.C. is there not only to help relieve the day-to-day stresses of campus life but to also help students cope with traumatic experiences, as told by the handler of a remarkable little dog named Jessie:
“A young female student died suddenly and we were called to the campus to help visit the other students on the floor where this girl lived. Another female student was crying and took this death of her friend very hard. When I saw her I asked if she would like to hold Jessie she said yes through her tears and hugged her and buried her face into Jessie’s side. She then asked me her name and I told her it was Jessie. She cried and squeezed Jessie and said her friend who had died, her name was Jessie too! She whispered to me, thank you for letting her hug and hold Jessie, it felt like she had her friend in her arms again. Soon her tears stopped and a smile came to her and she felt a burden and been lifted off her shoulders.3
Pledging Their Love for Pets
Many institutions, including Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, allow pets to reside in the chapter homes of on-campus fraternities and sororities. Lehigh even allows one lucky pet to pledge each Greek organization, while Case Western allows sororities and fraternities to appeal the normal pet policy to enable animals to serve as “mascots.”
Washington & Jefferson University takes things a step further: Students call the Monroe Hall dorm The Pet House because they can bring nearly any pet from home provided it’s no more than 40 pounds. Monroe residents who aren’t able to take care of their pets’ full-time can always arrange for a daytime visit from their stay-at-home pet.
Stetson University doesn’t limit the fun to just one dormitory – their Deland, Florida campus boasts four animal-friendly residences and a fully functioning dog park! Students can even enroll in a training program to certify their pet as a service animal.
Not an institution to take things lying down, Stephens College not only allows pets in its Searcy and Tower Halls – the Missouri school even offers Doggie Daycare to look after the pooches when students are in class. It’s not just fun and games, though. Stephens takes on the serious issue of homeless and abandoned pets through its partnership with a local no-kill shelter, through which students can volunteer to foster pets until the right home is found.
College isn’t just for the dogs.
The California Institute of Technology is just one institution that allows cats in many of its dormitories. (Speaking of tech, the Massachusetts Institution of Technology is also cat-friendly. Interesting …) Eckerd College (which also allows non-venomous snakes of up to six feet), Principia College, University of Idaho, University of Illinois, and University of Washington, Seattle are among the other institutions that are feline-friendly.
And then there’s Virginia’s Sweet Briar College – one of the schools that has jumped into animal-friendliness in a really big way. Students who are members of the college’s prestigious Riding Program (one of the country’s most renowned equestrian programs) can bring their horses along with them. Boarding fees are extra, but the horses have access to Sweet Briar’s outstanding vet care including equine chiropractors and dentists.
Having a pet on campus is a great way to stay healthy, reduce stress and deal with the anxieties college life inevitably brings. Still, every year many students need to leave school before the semester ends due to health issues, and may not receive full reimbursement of their tuition, room, and board and other fees from their school. To protect the investment you’ve made in your future, consider purchasing Allianz Tuition Insurance prior to the beginning of the semester. Plans are available starting at $29.95 and provide protection throughout the entire semester.